By Nicholas Fondacaro; MRCNewsBusters:
What NBC’s Willie Geist spun as a rundown of the political echo chambers in America on Sunday Today, quickly devolved into a condemnation of the rise of conservative media.
“Fake news is a favorite term, as you know, of President Trump. What you consider real and fake in many cases has become a question of where you’re sitting and who you’re listening to,” declared Geist at the start of the segment. He ignored the fact that the term was first used to describe stories about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
According to him, reporter Hallie Jackson was supposed to talk about “media culture that has us talking past each other.” But it quickly became a hit piece on outlets they despise. “Back then, there were three,” Jackson said, touting NBC News over a clip of Camel News Caravan. “Before breaking the news down to views that we choose.”
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Detecting BS and Those Who Feed Us Fake News
By Stephen Owsinski; OpsLens:
CNN did it again. It publicized a story, got heat for its non-factual message, and apologized after someone’s name was smeared like cow dung. Resulting in resignations of three “journalists,” CNN ran a story alleging corrupt cavorting and intriguing implications between Anthony Scaramucci, an associate of President Trump, and Kiril Dmitriev, who manages the Russian Direct Investment Fund. The three accomplished journalists who put together the story are now unemployed after backstroking in a fake-stream channel.
It was a short-lived story. It was reckless reporting. It was recanted and labeled “fake news.” OpsLens Contributor Jon Harris articulated the particulars regarding the latest CNN propaganda and subsequent fallout.
Despite its attempt at damage control, President Donald Trump nonetheless lambasted CNN for its blunder while CNN yanked the story’s links and extended an apology to Mr. Scaramucci.
President Trump took to Twitter and said, “Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down!” Within the same hour of that tweet on June 27, 2017, President Trump added on Twitter, “So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”
In our hyperbolized society and its current he said/she said climate rife with pundits, political hacks, persuasive personas, and self-imposing figures, it can be taxing to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to news sources. Talking heads abound. It is a living. But is it an honest living? Can we easily pay the price of integrity and objectivity? Do we forfeit facts and fudge our way through storytelling?
Is personal and professional nobility in place before we tighten our neckties and primp our flowing hair before being queued by the “on-air” flasher signifying it is time to tell the truth? I’d like to think so, but the seeming stream of fake news is disconcerting. Much of the facade is so evident and outlandish, it borders Comedy Central. Some news is debatable. Some of it beckons head-scratching. In the face of falsity, anxiety mounts, mental anguish fatigues us, and the cable news cycle continues.
Fortunately for our marvelous human design and its built-in physiological mechanism known as gut instincts, we have a fighting chance to sift through the daily dung of media perpetuity and consciously hear our internal alarm screaming “That…sounds…a lot like bullshit!” For the most part, humans know better. Then again, some of us are prone to gullibility and manipulation, readily accepting whatever we are given (told).
Honing Your BS-ometer
If your ear-buds blasting whatever you tuned into your ears override the signals of gut instinct-messaging, there’s always a college course to sift through what is and what is not BS. Really!
A duo of University of Washington (UW) professors truly fed up with the falsified stuff propagated by the fake-stream media have pieced together a course titled “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data.” In their syllabus, Professors Jevin West and Carl Bergstromsummed up the idea in their course synopsis: “Our world is saturated with bullshit. Learn to detect and diffuse it.” Whether one deems this course necessary or not, we can all get bullish on this insidious media matter and do our part to flush away waste.
Among the course’s series of 12 lectures, two stand out: “Publication Bias” and “Fake News.” As it relates to recent CNN practices involving publication bias and fake news stories, the former examines “Claims and the interests of those who make them” while the latter purports “sectarian echo chambers and, lately, a serious assault on the very notion of fact.”
Inclusively, misleading messaging, self-serving metrics, and “canonization of false facts” are only a few of many components for study in the UW course. Even for a career cop whose bread and butter was earned in the largely-listening-to-bullshit arena, I’m intrigued by this course of study.
Weight of a Word
During the university phase of my life, I was the student of a Russian-born English literature professor who pounded in my head how just one word can alter the entire course and meaning of a story.
Unquestionably, the use (misuse) of one solitary word can change the meaning of a message and throw bias all over the place. Colgate found this out the hard way when its toothpaste campaign claimed “Four out of five dentists recommended Colgate over other toothpastes.” Neuroscientist and author Daniel Levitin, whose book Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era covers dissecting fact from fiction, hit upon the misleading Colgate campaign. Succinctly, Levitin draws attention to the semantics beckoning scrutiny of word use, such as why Colgate’s advertisers used the word “recommended” instead of “preferred” and why its campaign also used the word “over” instead of “along” to imply their product was the only standout choice.
Can you see how seemingly minor allusions have major impacts on the product (political candidate or opponent) being emphasized? The sway is real, all centered on BS talk from those with an agenda and personal stake. Consider the source. Evaluate their gain. Question their motives. Connect the dots independent of the media having the only/final say.
Play police detective and dig until you have all the bits and pieces snugly fitting together, composing fact.
Defining “bullshit” via Google produced the following: stupid or untrue talk or writing; nonsense…typically to be misleading or deceptive. Ta-dah! CNN and others?
What also came up with a Google search was a work by Harry G. Frankfurt called On Bullshit, which explores, well, you know. Frankfurt’s work points out that “bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner’s capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.” Sound like some media sources and political figures at whom this article points a firm finger?
Fake-stream media is an embedded slippery slope that beckons scrutiny as it relates to the process of wading through pure fact from pure bullshit. Perhaps a gargantuan example is the November 2016 election cycle, in which we were blasted by a barrage of accusation, innuendo, character assassination, counter assault, political propping, strategic undermining, sabotage, collusion (former CNN contributor and DNC chair Donna Brazile), and a potpourri of media bias.
To varying degrees, we all have our favorites. However, the media is meant to report facts objectively and without a stake whatsoever. That is not what we have been seeing in recent years.
Although it may come off as shocking and breaking with tradition for some, President Trump ridding his camp of media outlets proffering fake news is his right. Reporters and correspondents conducting themselves in a conspicuously arrogant way engenders the president’s (and anyone’s) rights to be free of troublemakers laden with bias. The press badges mean nothing when not accompanied by a professional posture. It’s the White House, not “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”
Lest I be incomplete on this matter, some would-be news sources pride themselves on being recognizably fake. The Onion provides many tears in that category; at least they are honest about their purpose to publish a fusion of satire/news. You knew that, right? One of their latest articles depicts Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller dressed as a janitor clearing out the Oval Office trash bins with President Donald Trump sitting nearby. The Onion’s title is a parody giveaway: “Robert Mueller Begins Thirteenth Day as White House Janitor.”
That is an extreme example. The UW course “Calling Bullshit in an Age of Big Data” is geared for plotting a course for verifiable truths while uncovering falsities. I suspect it may receive meager mainstream media coverage.
On the University of Washington website announcing this course on January 17, 2017, both Professors Bergstrom and West stated their convictions behind this topic: “We feel that the world has become oversaturated with bullshit and we’re sick of it.” The ultimate objective of this course of study is “to recognize when assertions aren’t supported by facts and be able to explain to others why they shouldn’t take certain claims at face value.” Sound like some CNN tidbits to you?
We have enough seeds for a civil war and ample strife perpetuated by mainstream media. As Professor West stipulated, a key ingredient at the outset of digesting the course material is the “ability to distinguish the signal from the noise.” Personally, I rid myself of the CNN static a long time ago.
There you have it: a no-bones-about-BS nugget.